When England Women take to the Keepmoat Stadium to take on Latvia, all eyes will be on young goalkeeper Hannah Hampton, who could make her Lionesses debut, which would be the most incredible moment for someone who has had to work harder than most to get to this point.
The Aston Villa goalkeeper was born with extremely bad vision and had to undergo several operations when she was a child, and when she first got into football, she was a striker, but following her transition in between the sticks, she was told she wouldn’t be able to play sport because of her having no depth perception. And yet here she is, a member of Sarina Wiegman’s impressive Lionesses squad and she is savouring every single moment of this fairytale.
Speaking to BBC Sport following her call-up, the 21-year-old said: “I have no depth perception, so I can’t judge distances – so being a goalkeeper doesn’t really make a lot of sense.
“I wasn’t supposed to play and I wasn’t allowed to do certain jobs. Finding that out made me more determined to get to the highest level possible. It was always my passion to do sport and it was my dream.”
The young shot-stopper, who joined Aston Villa from rivals Birmingham City in the summer, along with boss Carla Ward, spent five years with the Blues. Before that, she had spent five years of her youth in Spain and was scouted by Villarreal, initially as a forward. She returned to England in 2010 and joined the Stoke City Centre of Excellence and it was then in 2016 when she was brought to the Blues by Manchester United boss Marc Skinner who at the time was Academy Director before later becoming the club’s first team manager. It was Skinner who introduced her to senior football when he selected her for a League Cup game against Doncaster Belles in November 2017 when she was just 16 years old. Hampton grasped her opportunity with both hands and following a string of fine performances, she was handed her first professional contract a month later.
Hampton then solidified her position in the first team when one of the finest keepers in the world, Ann-Katrin Berger joined Chelsea and her career has been on an upward trajectory ever since. In her final two seasons in the blue half of Birmingham, she played 34 out of 35 Women’s Super League games, keeping six clean sheets, along with an impressive save percentage of 66.5% - astonishing considering the disadvantage she has to her opposite number in each game. Her ability has carried her so far but it is also her will and determination to prove people wrong that has made up the rest of her inspirational journey so far – and that is why when Ward made the cross city divide in the summer, Hampton was one of her first recruits at Villa, showing how much faith she has in the youngster.
Her story is what makes her a great role model to young people who are told that they can’t do something and Hampton has fully embraced being someone to look up to.
She said: “I’ve always told the younger generation that if you can’t follow your own dreams, what are you going to do in life? You’ve got to follow your dreams and, sat here right now, I can say that I’ve done that.”
There is the chance of further surgery on the cards, but with her thriving in the WSL and fighting for the England number one jersey, she doesn’t see it as needed. And of course, she is no stranger to the England set-up. She has represented her country previously at under-15, under-16, under-17, under-18, under-19 and under-21 level. So understandably she has always stood out in the England camp and why her senior call-up was fully warranted.
With the new Lionesses recruit being just 21 years of age, she is likely to make an exciting international career for herself in the many years to come, and it would be fantastic for the ink to hit the page of her first England chapter if she were to collect her first cap against Latvia on Tuesday evening.